TRAINER Nicky Henderson has revealed his team have been 'tinkering' with Epatante after her shock defeat.
The defending Champion Hurdle winner is the hot favourite to defend her crown in March.
But she was turned over at odds of 1-5 in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last time out.
Henderson blames a back issue for her troubles and hopes her team have now resolved the problem.
He said: "No she won't run before Cheltenham, that's an easy answer. She didn't last year and she won't this year.
"We're very pleased. We've been tinkering, obviously she wasn't right at Kempton.
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"It was her back, more than anything, I think, and that is what we have been trying to sort out – hopefully we have.
"It's just got her more relaxed in her back and more supple. Something was agitating her on the day."
Punters look to have forgiven Epatante for her shock defeat at Kempton.
She remains as short as 7-4 for the two-mile hurdle showpiece at the Festival, with Sharjah next in at 7-1 and her Kempton conqueror Silver Streak at 10-1.
Meanwhile stablemate Santini is on course to run in the Cotswold Chase if it is rescheduled as expected.
The original race – set for today at Cheltenham – was abandoned after the track became waterlogged.
The race could be moved to Sandown next weekend.
Henderson added: "Santini could go for it next weekend if that's what they do.
"Altior will run in the Game Spirit and then we'll decide from there. He's in both, but I would be favouring the Champion Chase."
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